Hemlock House

Other encounter sets in this scenario: Agents of the Colour, Transfiguration, Blight, Locked Doors, Rats
Residents involved: Gideon and William(day 1), William and Judith(day 2), Judith and Theo (day 3)
Available experience: 2(locations) +1(Shapeless Cellar) +2(resolution, 10 seals or defeats) =5XP.
Additional experience dependent on the day: 2XP on day 1 or 1XP on days 2 and 3, bringing up the total to 7XP (day 1) or 6XP (day 2/3)

Size of the Encounter Deck25
# Enemies7
# Willpower4
# Agility6
# Intellect
# Fight8
# Damage8
# Horror4
# Doom
The scenario can also involve Fire! which will add more agility tests.

My take on this encounter deck: There is a lot of fight and agility testing happening in this scenario, much more so than usual. However, that’s more or less where the things of note about this encounter deck end, as i find it mostly unimpressive. There’s some damage floating around, but not in an amount that would scare you much unless you are someone particularly fragile like Daisy or Luke. The enemy side is one half Rats. The other half is Miasmatic Shadows which are a credible threat for sure and Grappling Spawns which at least have their moments.
The scenario specific treacheries do interact with the central mechanics of the enemy-locations, either providing additional triggers to flip locations or pulling players to those enemies.

My take on the scenario as a whole: The real driving force of the scenario however is supposed to be the House itself, the double sided locations which turn into enemies. I am not quite sure they fulfill that promise either however. In general, i had a very easy time with Hemlock House each time i played it. Discard effects are around, but scarce enough that you can avoid triggering Miasmatic Shadows fairly well. The Spawns are hard to fight on higher floors, but easy to evade. Rats are almost a freebie. Many of the treacheries ended up either being freebies as well and not particularly threatening even when they do something.
The Predation Test mechanic works similar to the Infestation bag from Dream-Eater’s Waking Nightmare. An extra bag is set up with three kinds of tokens. One does nothing. One flips a room to its enemy side. The final one makes every room attack anyone in them and shuffles all tokens back. Depending on when you play the scenario, the number of “Do Nothing” tokens varies. On day 3 there’s literally only 3 tokens in the bag, one of each. This mechanic does what it’s supposed to. It’s slightly fiddly because of the extra bag, but just like with Waking Nightmare i didn’t find it to be a huge problem. Definitely expect to forget it two or three times over the course of the scenario though ;) Again, if you played Waking Nightmare, you know already how this goes.
I like the general setup here, but I think the location-enemies are too far on the tanky side and don’t have enough “bite”. There’s two ways to play the scenario, one by collecting clues and sealing everything, the other by attacking the location-enemies and tearing the place down. The first is a whole lot easier than the second and since the scenario rewards you for sticking to one of the routes, there’s just not enough reason to actually fight the house.
It’s an okay scenario, but i would call it one of the weaker ones from Feast of Hemlock Vale, at least once you are replaying it for the Xth time and the enemy-location mechanic has worn off its novelty value.

Variants/Scaling: There are a couple things that are different depending on when you play this scenario. Let’s start with the residents, because there is actually a bunch of things happening here. Day 1 has you meet Gideon and William and you get a chance to improve your relations with each of them. You also get access to the Little Silvie story asset which is a doll that takes up the accessory slot, but lets you replace discard effects with putting cards to your deck. This not only preserves your cards, but also stops Forced triggers that activate on discard from working (like on the Miasmatic Shadow), so this story asset is actually pretty nice to have. On day 2, you meet William and Judith and witness an argument between the two where you will need to take a side, earning you relationship with that person and an XP. Finally, day 3 has Theo and Judith. They are great allies for the scenario, one of them giving you a free move, the other a free attack. Judith also tells you she wants to “remodel” the place… by tearing it down. If you do so, you gain an extra XP in the end. All three of these options have their merit and depending on if you want to deepen your relationship with one of them, a different one might be interesting to you. However, if you after relations, note that you won’t gain any for Theo and to gain a point with Judith on day 3, you will need to defeat at least 8 location-enemies which is no small ask. Getting relationship points is certainly easier on day 1 and 2.
There is no scaling by day number on the cards or the token modifiers, except for the already mentioned influence on the predation bag. There is a good amount of scaling by floor number and notably you start on level 4 on day 3 so you are possibly getting harder tests right away. But you can always just go down the stairs immediately if that is a problem so i wouldn’t put much of an importance on this in terms of deciding when to go to the Hemlock House.
Finishing the scenario doesn’t earn you any kind of log entry, so no repercussions for the rest of the campaign either. Sadly, William will not care at all about you potentially burning down his family home.
Bottom line, all three days offer something interesting from the residents there and the different combinations do change the tone of the scenario remarkably well. There isn’t really another notable consideration when you want to decide when to go here. Oh right, there is no incentive to come here at night at all. All that will do is tune up a few enemies slightly and remove the villagers from the scenario.

Before we dive into the encounter deck, let’s take a look at the location-enemies first. These all follow similar guidelines, with some numbers switched around a bit. What they have in common is that they are easy to evade, have large health pools and fight values of 3 or 4. They all can’t make attacks of opportunity and often they will trigger some sort of effect when turned from their location side to their enemy-location half, like doing an extra predation test or attacking every investigator at the location.
There’s two ways to get rid of an unruly location: You either defeat it in combat or you seal it with clues. The former requires to punch your way through all of its health which will move it to your victory display and collapse the house to fill up the space. The latter requires dropping a clue per investigator onto the location-enemy to turn it back to being dormant. And then spending an action and another set of clues to seal it. A sealed location will never “wake up” again. Now here’s where i think the balance is a bit off: Dropping the clues to flip the location is a free trigger. Sealing the location costs an action. So while you did have to acquire the clues first, you only need to spend an action in the location’s presence to do the thing. Meanwhile, a fighter will be spending their full turn (or more) on beating down on it and some of the locations have Retaliate as well. Following the damage route also requires rooms to wake up in the first place. While you can just seal any location for cheap while it’s still dormant. There simply isn’t enough incentive to actually stay at an awake location which undercuts almost any of the threat the scenario tries to present with its enemy-locations. The final location, the Shapeless Cellar, is almost an exception but evasion handles it so incredibly well that it can’t really do much to you either.

# in the encounter deck: 2

Threat level: Mid.

We don’t see a lot of monsters that change their health value up and down as the game goes on. This leads to a slightly awkward interaction where you can put three damage on this thing while on a higher floor, evade it and when it follows you downstairs it dies because its health went from 4 to 3.
This mechanical weirdness aside, these are pretty tough to fight. Scaling anywhere between 3 and 6 health coupled with a very solid fight value does give them some staying power. Evading it works very well as a stop-gap, but since there are so few enemies actually worth fighting in this scenario you might as well unload on these.

# in the encounter deck: 4

Threat level: Low.

Of those possible options i almost only care about the middle one. But let’s start at the top.
When you are standing at an enemy location, you are dealt a damage and horror each. Not all that terrible in the big picture, especially not considering that there’s an agility test to deflect it. As far as “test agility to avoid damage” treacheries go, this is fairly weak. Not sure why it deals flat damage and horror instead of making the room attack. That would have been more flavorful and given a bit of extra punch in some of the rooms.
The second option flips over a room to the enemy side. That mostly represents a speed bump because you now need to turn it back to sleep with some clues, but will also likely trigger some sort of “when revealed” ability on the room. If you are going the route where you want to destroy the house, this might actually be a card you want to see because you can’t fight dormant locations.
Finally, if your location is sealed, you discard a random card. Since it’s random, it can be annoying, but usually will not be anything too tragic. This effect is something to remember however if you have a Miasmatic Shadow on your tail. If you end your turn in a Dormant location with a Shadow, then the discard from Out of the Walls will have that Shadow engage and attack you.

# in the encounter deck: 2

Threat level: Low to Mid.

The fact that enemy-locations don’t deal attacks of opportunity means that Pulled In very often does very little. It can even be the setup for you to just pay the clues afterwards to seal the whole thing. If you fail hard enough, you get attacked and that can stack up with Out of the Walls and the treacheries from Blight and Transfiguration, but happens rarely enough that you’ll probably not be too bothered by this one either.

6 Replies to “Hemlock House”

  1. Is there something scenario specific, that grants “Miasmatic Shadows” XP, and we missed it on our play? Because by face value, they are just Victory 0.

      1. Also, you actually can gain the most XP on Day 1. When parleying with William and/ or Gideon the second time to increase their relation level, each investigator also get 1 bonus XP for each of them.

  2. I think you’re underrating Pulled In slightly. It can be fairly scary for Mystics or Seekers, who are likely to fail the test by 4 and end up taking 2-3 combined damage/horror. Additionally, if you do get pulled in, you have anywhere from a 100% to 20% chance to take another 2-3 damage/horror from drawing the Tablet on the predation test at the end of the phase. Those Mystics/Seekers likely to fail by 4 oftentimes can be quite squishy in the health department as well, so taking 4 damage out of the blue is very possible. If you were softened up a bit by the other combat test in the deck, Enervation, you have to really respect this card since it can very plausibly just kill someone from a pretty reasonable health total. Deserving of a medium threat level, in my opinion.

    1. Fair enough, i changed it a tick up to “Low to Mid”. I consistently find it very hard to evaluate damage/horror treacheries because they depend so much on what else is going on in the scenario and putting something that can deal 2-3 damage tokens at Low is probably undervaluing it.

      That being said, I feel like Pulled In doesn’t quite have the backup from other sources to be particularly scary. It also deals its points split up between damage *and* horror, which i would say is generally weaker than a treachery that just focuses on either damage *or* horror.

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